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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 1:19–28

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Behany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. (NRSV)

This passage is rich in Old Testament reference and, as such, bridges Old and New Testament. John the Baptist is an extraordinary character. He isn’t a model of religious convention. John stands apart from the religious leaders of his time. He is pivotal. John is a disruptor.

In this passage, John’s responses to the repeated questioning from religious leaders, “Who are you?” make clear he knows who he is and who Jesus is. In this instance, John isn’t the loud and brazen John the Baptist. In this instance, I imagine him quietly, humbly, and firmly deflecting the focus from himself and going about the business of baptizing. In a couple of ways, this passage seems spot on for Advent reflection and prayer: moving from old to new; working on purpose with a focus on Jesus.

Advent has become increasingly significant to me over the years. In these weeks before Christmas, I ready my home and prepare my soul. I am more intentional in worship, more consistent in prayer. Advent stirs anticipation and hope for me. Small kindnesses seed love, and small acts of giving spark joy. In coming together with others, in furthering hospitality and greater community, I gain a sense of belonging, peace, and real possibility. In this momentum of Advent, I gain a sense of my part, who I am and who Jesus is.

May I hear the voice of John the Baptist. May I hear the voice in the wilderness, the voice speaking quietly and before all others that the truth of our existence is you, God, and you come to us. Emmanuel. Amen.

Written by Laura Sterkel, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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